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Anthony van Dyck, Lady Elizabeth Thimbelby and her Sister

Key facts
Full title Lady Elizabeth Thimbelby and Dorothy, Viscountess Andover
Artist Anthony van Dyck
Artist dates 1599 - 1641
Date made about 1635
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 132.1 × 149 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1977
Inventory number NG6437
Location Room 21
Collection Main Collection
Lady Elizabeth Thimbelby and her Sister
Anthony van Dyck

Anthony van Dyck was largely responsible for introducing the double or ‘friendship’ portrait to Britain. The informal composition of this painting as well as the quantities of shimmering silk on display perfectly illustrate the appeal of Van Dyck’s new style to aristocratic British patrons eager for innovation.

The two women in the portrait, Dorothy and Elizabeth, were the eldest surviving daughters of Thomas, 1st Viscount Savage. It was once thought that the picture was painted around the time of Dorothy’s scandalous elopement in 1637, and that she was the sister seated on the right. But this theory has been disproved, and a contemporary copy of the painting identifies Dorothy as standing on the left. Elizabeth wears a saffron-coloured gown – a colour said to have been worn by brides in ancient Greece. She is the newly-wed receiving roses from Cupid, the god of erotic love.

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